“Iran” brings up a very specific image in the minds of most Westerners: Chadors, morality police, nuclear weapons, and other unsavory things. “Persia,” on the other hand, is redolent of some far-off, ancient Oriental exoticism. Mary Jane Walker’s contemporary account of her recent trek through Iran is thus a welcome corrective to both those images. It’s not that they don’t have some basis in facts, but real-life modern-day Iran includes that and so much more. Walker’s story of traveling around Iran as a woman on her own gives Iran a much more human and welcoming face.
First of all, it’s heartening to hear that it is not only possible but even reasonably safe and easy for women to travel around Iran by themselves. Although women are expected to wear hijabs in public, and even chadors in certain areas, Walker had little trouble in following those rules, and even went bareheaded in many situations with little or no blowback (although there were a few moments of concern). She was able to move freely around the country, and enter numerous cultural and historic sights.
And what sights! The book comes with lots of photos (I read it on my iPad in order to see the photos in color) of the incredibly beautiful buildings and artwork all over Iran. Looking at them will inspire even the most hardened stay-at-home non-traveler to want to visit Iran. I know I am now thirsting to go.
The book is a mixture of travel story and travel advice, so we get Walker’s adventures, which are quite entertaining, and her recommendations if you want to go to Iran, such as getting a debit card in the local currency. So it will be useful to “real” travelers planning a trip to Iran, as well as armchair travelers wanting to get in a vicarious visit to a country banned to most Americans. The writing style is simple and straightforward but gets the point across and puts the reader there on the scene. Overall, recommended for anyone interested in going to Iran or finding out what is going on there right now.
My thanks to the author for providing a review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
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